CineSavant Column

Saturday June 23, 2018


New Warners titles … we’re still expecting Dark of the Sun, but also announced are Blu-rays of John Huston’s The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, Peter Ustinov’s superb Billy Budd, and Wolf Rilla’s film of John Wyndham’s Village of the Damned. Beware the Eyes that Hypnotize!

Remember how Warners put standard-definition copies of The Invisible Boy and Mystery of the Wax Museum on Blu-rays of Forbidden Planet and House of Wax? We’re grateful that they aren’t putting an SD copy of Children of the Damned as an extra on Village.

That’s a good reminder. With all the attention on director Michael Curtiz this year, it would be great to see a fancy restoration of the 2-color Technicolor Mystery of the Wax Museum. It’s a sensational picture, and not a year goes by without somebody writing me to say that the old standard-def transfer has ‘issues,’ namely that the colorists tried to ‘fix’ the hues in the transfer rather than replicate the original’s weird color values.

Hey, I get to name drop!   One-time boss Richard Yuricich drew my attention to a semi-anonymous tumblr site called MOVIEBARCODE, which turns a movie into a pictograph, reducing selected frames to one vertical line and placing them side by side. Like a colorful spectrogram, the result spreads the ‘look’ of a movie out in a horizontal timeline that spans the length of the picture. All of the moviebarcodes are the same size, so I guess the sample frames pulled are taken proportionally, not at regular intervals.

A movie that plays out at night in the first half, and in the daytime in the second, would therefore be dark on the left and light on the right. (There’s no exact explanation, so I hope I’ve interpreted this correctly.) Some are just dull but others tell a story. I see that the Close Encounters moviebarcode starts with the sandstorm, moves to the ‘first night observation’ section and has the extended ending that’s very dark with bright colors popping up. The Complete Austin Powers (pictured) looks like a candy cane. For 55 Days at Peking it’s easy to spot the watercolor sequences for the main titles and end credits.

The page sells prints. I guess the idea is that you can have an abstraction of your favorite film hanging on the wall, to be admired the way botanists and lumberjacks count the rings in a tree (which represent time as well). As a kid I remember looking at my first vinyl lp of the ‘Our Man Flint’ soundtrack, and realizing that the grooves for loud music were different than the grooves for soft music. I looked to see if Moviebarcode had a sampler for The Shape of Water, as I would expect a near-solid shaft of green, teal and aqua. Although the site’s list of titles is long, I didn’t find that one.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson